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Adapting Lessons to Support Students with Severe Disabilities


Project title:

Adaptations and/or Modifications to Support Standard Course of Study in Science and Literacy for Primary Grade Students with Severe Communication and Physical Disabilities

Laura Lewis, M.S., CCC/SLP Kenan Fellow

Assistive Technology Specialist
Special Education Department, Wake County Public Schools
Kenan Mentors: Dr. Patricia B. Porter, Ph.D. and Dr. Karen Erickson, Ph.D.
The Center for Literacy and Disability Studies
UNC-Chapel Hill


Children with severe speech and physical disabilities are being included in the regular education setting at a higher rate due to the increasing number of integrative education opportunities and placement of students in the least restrictive environments in the education setting. There are students in our regular public school classrooms whose severe speech and physical disabilities require their use of alternatives to speech and other types of assistive technology tools to make them successful in the regular education setting. These speech devices, referred to as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) provide a special challenge to the student and the school teaching staff. These devices and assistive technology needs requires teachers to think differently about how a student will discuss, report and/or ask questions about science discussions as well as how they will draw, design and write to complete lessons and science journals. These students are expected to participate in the standard course of study however; they may often require many adaptations and/or modifications to the curriculum in order to be able to fully participate like their typically developing peers. Regular education teachers are often not equipped with the background knowledge to know how to make these adaptations/modifications successful for the student. This Kenan project will focus on developing a multitude of ideas for teachers, therapist and other school staff to access on how to adapt and/or modify the K-2 science curriculum. A road map for ideas will be linked with the standard course of study so that teachers can access the ideas quickly and easily when needed.

About the Website:

This website will provide a road map for teachers to access the standard course of study for science at the K-2nd grade level. Once the teachers go to the link for the science curriculum they will notice process words in bold for all the standard essentials. When the teacher clicks on the process word in bold or goes to a list of process words as links on the site, they will go to a page of adaptations and/or modifications for that specific process word. Each page will have explanations about the ideas and adaptations as well as list of resources, video clips to help explain the adaptations and some will offer communication boards to assist in the use of the adaptations. The teachers can then select from a list of ideas which best fits their students needs or the needs of the activity in terms of time allocations and group situations.

About the Project:

The goal of the project is to facilitate the active participation of students with severe physical and speech disabilities that use augmentative communication devices (AAC) and other types of assistive technology in the standard course of study.

The project will be conducted in two parts.

  • Initially the Kenan Fellow will work with a set of science related books/stories and focus on adapting new lessons from a lesson set that has already been created in order to practice writing lessons.
  • Then the fellow will observe regular education standard course of study science lessons in K-2nd grade classrooms. The teachers will provide a copy of their lesson plans and the fellow will take these lessons and write an adapted science lesson with the same goals of the lesson in mind which would allow the student with severe communication and physical needs to increase their participation and learning for this particular lesson. These adapted lessons created will be reviewed by the fellow’s mentors and upon their input they will determine if the fellow is ready to proceed with developing adaptations for the K-2nd grade curriculum and start the final part of the project.
  • The final part of the project will be for the fellow to produce a website from which they will develop and compile a “road map” for lesson adaptations and/or modifications for process words found in science essentials and objectives in the standard course of study to share with teachers. The road map will be set up in a user friendly manner so that the teachers can easily access and obtain the needed information.